Early Decision Vs. Early Action

What’s the difference? And when should you consider applying early to a favored school?

About 2/3 of universities offer some sort of early admission process. For some students, it’s worth looking into…

For one, you’ll find out quickly if you’ve been accepted. Find out soon enough, and you might not have to deal with applying to numerous schools later.

Also, many colleges accept a higher percentage of early candidates. Colleges recognize  these students are motivated to attend – it’s a clear declaration that your early admission school is your top choice. Early applicants also tend to be very strong students – they usually have good reason to believe they can get in.

But it’s not for everyone.

Some schools require that you agree to attend, if you’re accepted (and the financial package is a fit). If you aren’t 100% positive about your choice of school, you shouldn’t apply early – certainly not for early decision.

This might be a good time to clarify some of the rules that colleges use for the early admission process. Each school is different – and you should investigate any program before applying – but there are two broad categories that early applications fall under.

Early Decision

For early decision schools, you aren’t allowed to apply to any other programs early. If admitted, you’re required to attend. Although you’re allowed to apply regular decision to other schools – often the results of your early decision won’t be known before regular application deadlines – if you’re accepted, you have to withdraw all other applications.

Of course, there are benefits. Your spring semester will be stress-free… you’ll have plenty of time to get to know your new school… and you may even be given first dibs for some introductory programs.

On the other hand, though, your negotiating ability for financial aid basically disappears. No matter what the school provides in aid, you’re still required to attend.

Some schools these days take the lion’s share of their incoming class from early decision candidates as well – so, if you have a clear number one school, early decision may give you a leg up on other candidates. But if you aren’t completely positive about your school, then early decision is most likely not for you.

Early Action

With early application schools, you’re allowed to apply early elsewhere – and acceptance is non-binding.

You’d receive many of the benefits of early decision, but with the added flexibility of exploring other options as you see fit. Many students don’t seriously pursue other colleges after getting into an early action school – but you’re free to.

These days, there are a growing number of single-entry early action programs as well. These are non-binding, just as with other early action schools – but you aren’t allowed to apply early elsewhere.

For students that know where they want to go, there’s every reason to apply early, and no drawbacks. Even the workload is better – your applications are more spaced out.

If you like a school but aren’t 100% sold, it still makes sense to apply early… if it’s an early action school. But if it’s early decision, make sure you understand all the pros and cons before committing yourself.

To your successful college search,

Scott Weingold
Publisher, CollegeMadeSimple.com

Related Articles:

Is Early Admission a Good Idea?

When Should Seniors Apply for College?

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by CollegeStats.org.  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News, TheStreet.com, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.